More cheese, please! Sonoma's Artisan Cheese Festival returns.
The California Artisan Cheese Festival returns for its 18th year in Sonoma with various tasting and pairing events. (Courtesy of California Artisan Cheese Festival)

More cheese, please! Sonoma's Artisan Cheese Festival returns.


Sonoma’s send-up to all things cheese is back for its 18th year of ooey gooey celebration.

At the California Artisan Cheese Festival, you don’t just get to eat all the cheese (and you do!), you get a look behind the curtain with tours at local farms and creameries, at seminars and workshops with storied experts, and at tastings manned by makers like Wm. Cofield, Laura Chenel, Marin French, and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.

“There is nothing like getting the chance to meet your favorite cheesemaker at the Cheese Crawl or cuddle with a baby goat on one of the farm tours,” says Sarah Simms, president of the California Artisan Cheese Guild and cofounder of Lady & Larder. “Springtime in California is as good as it gets.”

Penny Royal Farms at last year's California Artisan Cheese Festival marketplace.(Courtesy of California Artisan Cheese Festival)

As it’s steadily grown over the last two decades, the California Artisan Cheese Festival has expanded to three full days of educational and sensory experiences culminating in Sunday’s Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace, which showcases more than 100 producers, winemakers, distillers, chefs and brewers, and serves it all up with a side of live entertainment. This year, organizers have also added a beer garden for slower-paced sipping, as well as some more robust food offerings to complement all that cheese and booze. And if the four-hour event ($60/adult, $30/kids 12 and under) doesn’t seem long enough, an early entry ticket ($90/person) will get you a sparkling wine welcome and extra time before the crowds arrive.

While all the tickets have already been snapped up for this year’s farm tours and evening Cheese Crawl, Saturday will play host to a variety of bespoke events, including one led by Simms and winemaker Sam Sheehan of Mommenpop at Silver Penny Farm (5215 Lakeville Hwy., Petaluma). “We will be tasting an incredible lineup of cheese, learning about apertifs and making spritz cocktails, along with some bonus content around tinned fish and Spanish inspired tapas,” says Simms.

A local cheesemaker sets out rinds to age.(Courtesy of California Artisan Cheese Festival)

Earlier that day, paring expert and author Janet Fletcher will host a memorable guided beer and cheese tasting at Moonlight Brewing (3350 Coffey Ln., Santa Rosa), a brewery known for its traditional and pre-industrial beer-making, while over at Kendall-Jackson (5007 Fulton Rd., Santa Rosa), executive chef and cheese specialist Tracey Shepos Cenami will treat guests to a seated wine and cheese tasting lunch with housemade bites There will also be a cheese and wine pairing with chef and James Beard Award–winning cheese maven Laura Werlin at Balletto Vineyards (5700 Occidental Rd., Santa Rosa), and two cheese and charcuterie board-building workshops with the owner of Graze + Gather Co., Alyssa Gilbert. Seminars range from $75 to $90 per person.

Whether you come for a single workshop, the Sunday marketplace, or a whole weekend of bloomy-rinded triple creams, British-style blues and dry aged jacks, the festival won’t just be deliciously entertaining, says Simms. “It has never been more important to support small businesses and our California cheesemakers. Many of these makers do not attend many public-facing events during the year so this is your chance to meet your favorite and celebrate the season.”

// The 18th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival is March 22-24 in Sonoma County. The Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace is noon to 4pm on Sunday, March 24 at Grace Pavilion at Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Rd. (Santa Rosa),

(Courtesy of California Artisan Cheese Festival)

Related Articles
Now Playing at SF Symphony
View this profile on Instagram

7x7 (@7x7bayarea) • Instagram photos and videos

From Our Partners